Friday, September 25, 2020

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Finishing Psalm 8 study


Another important "take away" from our studies in Psalm 8 is that we should teach our children (or grandchildren, or nieces or get my drift!) to love, fear (reverence) and serve God as the only way to make our lives here on earth count.

So many young people today are especially troubled. They wonder if there is any real significance to their lives. They question what they are "here for." When we have a close relationship with Jesus Christ, our lives are not only important, they have eternal significance!

 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

The wonder and majesty of God's creation should inspire us to be good stewards of what He has made. Modern folks may worship the creation, and not the Creator, but we should not neglect the fact that we are stewards of the environment. We should be examples of how to balance the needs of mankind and the preservation of the environment. 

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

Although Ezekiel was given this message for the prophets who had fallen down on the job, these verses give us a good picture of our responsibilities to the animals and habitats of the earth:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.  (Ezekiel 34:2-5)

Psalm 8 also reminds us that we should take pleasure in whatever work God gives us to do.
 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

And lastly, make certain that we enjoy our Father God through His creation: get up from the couch and at least look out the window! If you are able, take a walk. Take a hike. Enjoy the wonders that He has made!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Concluding thoughts


I'm hoping that we have had some good studies on this psalm. The most important indicator of that is how we can apply what we have learned to our everyday lives.

Have we learned some things from David's song? 
Or have we been reminded of things we already know?

I think the first application is that this psalm should humble us. We can marvel at our majestic Creator, and be amazed at His grace and love  - He cared so very much that He sent His Son to be our Savior.
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all." (I Chronicles 29:11, NASB)
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)
This psalm should also teach us the value of each and every person as beings created in God's image. We must treat other people with respect. This means opposing racism, and condemning hate and ridicule. In growing more like Christ, we will leave behind our old ways of looking at other people, and of judging by their appearance.
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Another lesson from Psalm 8: we must stand firmly against abortion. We cannot allow God's amazing and awe-inspiring creations to be treated as so much trash. A mere eighteen days from conception, just a bit more than two weeks, a baby's heartbeat can be heard on ultrasound. The only difference between that baby in the mother's womb and you and I, is time. We cannot continue to stand by as children are killed simply because they are inconvenient. Murdering these babies (because that IS what abortion is) is a horrific sin that we must confront.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)
For You formed my inward parts;
         You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
         Wonderful are Your works,
         And my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13, 14)

Rescue those being led away to death,

and restrain those stumbling toward the slaughter.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,”

does not He who weighs hearts consider it?

Does not the One who guards your life know?

Will He not repay a man according to his deeds? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Psalm 8 should also inspire us to stand against the absurd notion of evolution, which denies that we are created in God's image.  Evolution is just a way for sinful people to attempt to avoid their Creator! It is one of the biggest frauds that the devil has ever imposed on the human race.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
We'll conclude our study tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Prayer requests

Do we sometimes wonder how to pray for others?
Is it difficult sometimes to know what to say?
Sometimes we don't even know what to say when we are praying for ourselves.
Paul prayed a very simple prayer for the people in the Colossian church.  

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 
 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 
 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 
and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

That's different from most of the prayers that we pray for other people, no?

There's no mention of health, or financial needs, or deliverance from difficult situations. Paul prays for the believers' spiritual needs. His prayer is one that we can pattern our own prayers after. By all means, let's continue to lift up those who we know need God's touch of healing. If we know their finances are stretched tightly, let's ask His blessing for them. 
But at the same time, I think it's important that we remember some of the things that are of vital importance in our Christian lives. Things that can help us deal with sickness and disease. With budgets stretched taut as rubber bands . . .
Are we asking God for answers and expecting them to arrive at the speed of our smartphones? Paul wasn't burdened by the feeling that answers needed to come quickly -- he never gave up speaking to the Lord about the Colossians. He had supreme confidence that God would hear; he also knew that spiritual growth is not only vitally important, but it grows slowly. In fact, it's a lifelong process!
Do we sometimes make a simple appeal in our prayers? "Lord, bless so-and-so."  Do we truly care about the people we are praying for?  Then let's keep our eyes (and our prayers) focused on the things that God desires for the ones we pray for . . . that they will know His will, that they will walk worthy of Him, and that they will receive His strength and power.

Again, we should talk to the Lord about physical or emotional concerns, but let's not overlook our need for spiritual growth. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave us an example of the kind of prayer God longs to answer. His desire is that we become more like His Son.

If you have a prayer request today, I hope that you will leave a comment so that we can pray with you. Let's be warriors in prayer, and let's be patient, knowing that God answers prayers in the absolute best way, and in the absolute best timing.

Let's pray.

Monday, September 21, 2020

He has crowned us


As believers, we often hear about crowns.
In the Old Testament we read about kings and queens who wore crowns. In the New Testament, we read about crowns, too.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
When I was growing up, our minister of music had a favorite joke he loved to tell. He said in his home town there were churches on many of the street corners downtown. In the summer, the windows would be open to catch any breeze as the services or singing went on. He said if you walked down the street, you could hear the singing easily - the Methodist church would be singing, "Will there be any stars in my crown?" and the Baptists would be singing, "No, not one." (Grin)
But I digress.
The Bible reveals that it's true: we will have crowns in heaven. I'm not certain if David knew that when he wrote this song, but let's look at our next verses:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the starswhich You have ordained
 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 
 (Psalm 8:3-5)
All of us have had the experience, I believe, of looking up into the vastness of the night sky and feeling awfully small. David did - he saw the moon and the stars and said they were the work of God's fingers. Then David thought of how small he was. How teeny-tiny! Can we say "puny"? How about "insignificant"?  I'm not being mean . . . the Hebrew word used here for "man" emphasizes the frailty (ie., mortality) of man:
You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.” (Psalm 90:3)
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. (Psalm 103:15)

Our earth is located within a solar system that includes a sun, other planets, and dozens of moons.  All of this is within an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe. The Andromeda galaxy, which appears in our sky as a fuzzy, cigar-shaped "smudge" in the fall, is actually 2.5 million light years away. That may sound incredibly far away, but it makes Andromeda so close that we can see it in the night sky. What we can't see is the galaxy's "halo" around it, which actually is nudging against our own galaxy! 

Compared to the vastness of the universe, as David says, what is mankind that God thinks of us, much less that He cares for us!

In spite of our insignificance, though, God has crowned us with glory and majesty - He has assigned to us the role of ruling over His creation. 
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty
 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet
 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field
 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (v. 5-8)
David is referring back to Genesis, where God created man in His image and likeness. In the same book of our Bible, God assigned to man the task of ruling over the rest of creation, which David takes the time to list. I guess David could have simply pointed out that we were created by God, just like the animals were created, but instead, he points out that we were made a little lower than God. I think he was pondering the fact that we are created in God's image. At least, before the fall.
The writer of Hebrews used much the same language, after quoting from the psalm:
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
He was making the point that for a time, Jesus had been made lower than the angels, so that through His death He could accomplish our salvation. 
Psalm 8 is fulfilled in Jesus, Who restored to us what Adam had lost.
Since the fall, mankind has accomplished remarkable feats in gaining dominion over God's creation. Just think about the wonders of modern medicine, and the conditions and diseases that can now be cured. Think about the wonders of modern astronomy, and the telescopes and satellites that allow man to peer far beyond the borders of our own galaxy.
But all of these accomplishments are marred by sin. In our pride, we humans boast about them and we do not acknowledge that the abilities to think, to reason, to explore, and to discover are all given to us by God. One would think that we would have learned from the builders of the Tower of Babel! But no, modern man uses science to proclaim his independence from God. With a few more breakthroughs, we will know just how our universe "came to be." With a few more advances, we can cure all our diseases and live forever.
Oy vey.
But science can't reconcile us to God. So God sent His own Son to provide the sacrifice for our sins. So David tells us to worship our holy God because even though we are puny and insignificant, He has graciously thought of us and cared for us.
Even though we marred His image and likeness through sin, God has restored us in Jesus Christ. Through Him we are again crowned with dignity and glory.
No wonder David ends the psalm with a triumphant, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday slowdown

Let's find time to worship God, to think on and praise Him for His majesty!


Thursday, September 17, 2020

"Out of the mouths of babes"


Babies are indeed marvels, aren't they?
Have we ever thought about how the Lord displays His power and yes, His majesty in wee babes?
We're looking at verse two today:
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. (v. 2)
This is such an interesting thing that David says to us. 
Let's dig in!
David knows that in spite of all the evidence surrounding us in God's creation, there will be some who don't "get it." In spite of all God's glory that is so easy to see, there will still be adversaries who oppose God. They are much more interested in being the rulers of their own lives, don't ya know? There is just no place in their lives for a sovereign God.

Hmmmmm, I know some of the ways that God deals with enemies such as these. What is David bringing to the discussion?
Well, let's try to understand what he is saying in verse two . . .  I saw a quote on the internet that was attributed to John Calvin. He said that the "process of conception and birth of an infant displays God's splendor so clearly that even a nursing infant brings down to the ground the fury of God's enemies." Now, I don't think that in the 1560's, John Calvin knew a whole lot about the complex biological processes that take place in a mother's body as her child is conceived, develops, and is born. Calvin was simply observing the wonder of a newborn baby!
In fact, I don't see how anyone could look at a baby and say that it happened by random chance? How can they deny the Creator?

We are expecting our third grandchild to be born in October. At present, with the health issues we are working through, this is a special joy for us. The process of birth is just as special - in fact, it's amazing! Sometime around nine months after conception, the baby's brain sends a hormone through the placenta and into the mom's pituitary gland. It's a complicated chemical with an uncomplicated message: "I'm ready!" All of the baby's complex systems like the lungs, heart, nervous system and more are ready to make it on their own, outside of the womb. The bones of the baby's skull have not yet fused, so that it can be just pliable enough to pass through the birth canal, and as birth begins, the baby's adrenal glands add a shot of stress hormones, to help the baby cope with his or her delivery.
Breathing? No, not yet - if the wee babe breathed too soon, it would suffocate; if it waited too long, it would suffer brain damage. And so, there is a complex process where the baby won't breathe until it clears the birth canal. And just before the mother and child separate, the newborn gets a last boost of nutrients through the umbilical cord, nutrients that the placenta stored for that moment. 
The wonder of new life and the cry of the newborn are a testament to God's strength and power!

Another way that children show the majesty and power of God, and bewilder His enemies is by praising Him. Scholars tell us that the Greek translation of the Old Testament often translated the Hebrew word "strength" as "praise." Remember on Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem? Then He healed the lame and the blind in the temple. The Bible tells us that little children saw these events and shouted praise:
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant (Matthew 21:15)
Indignant. Such a perfect word for the chief priests and the scribes. (Grin) They did not like what the children were saying, because just as the crowds had affirmed earlier, their cries of praise pointed toward Jesus' identity as the Messiah. In fact, Jesus responded to them and chided them in this way:
 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “ ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” (Matthew 21:16)
Can't you just see the high priests then? They must have been apoplectic! In his book, "Psalms," James Boice explains that when Jesus identified the praise of the children with Psalm 8, He validated their words and showed them to be proper. Not only that, but He interpreted their praise as directed not to a mere man, but to the "Son of David," the Messiah. They were praising God, because Psalm 8 says that God has ordained praise for Himself from children's lips. Look at this translation:
From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. (v. 2, Berean Study Bible)

And how about this one:

You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you. (v. 2, New Living Translation)

Oh my. I'm sure they "got" the implication, aren't you?  To silence "enemies and all who oppose you." A not-so-subtle phrase for them to chew on.

So, the Lord displays His power and majesty, says our friend David, in seemingly weak infants and children. He overcomes His enemies by the marvel of their creation and their birth, and also silences them by the praise that they sing in their simple faith.  I guess we could summarize his point by saying that we should worship the Lord in just the same way. 

Lord, help us to praise You as we ought!